"Interview with Giorgio Agamben – Life, A Work of Art Without an Author: The State of Exception, the Administration of Disorder and Private Life"
Interviewer Ulrich Raulff
1] Raulff: Your latest book The State of Exception has recently been published in German. It is an historical and legal-historical analysis of a concept that we, at first blush, associate with Carl Schmitt. What does this concept mean for your Homo Sacer project?
 Agamben: The State of Exception belongs to a series of genealogical essays that follow on from Homo Sacer and which should form a tetralogy. Regarding the content, it deals with two points. The first is a historical matter: the state of exception or state of emergency has become a paradigm of government today. Originally understood as something extraordinary,an exception, which should have validity only for a limited period of time, but a historical transformation has made it the normal form of governance. I wanted to show the consequence of this change for the state of the democracies in which we live. The second is of a philosophical nature and deals with the strange relationship of law and lawlessness, law and anomy. The state of exception establishes a hidden but fundamental relationship between law and the absence of law. It is a void, a blank and this empty space is constitutive of the legal system.
 Raulff: You wrote already in the first volume of Homo Sacer that the paradigm of the state of exception came into being in the concentration camps, or corresponds to the camps. The indignant outcry of last year as you applied this concept to the United States, to American politics, was predictably loud. Do you still consider your critique to be correct?
 Agamben: Regarding such an application, the publication of my Auschwitz book brought similar remonstrance. But I am not an historian. I work with paradigms. A paradigm is something like an example, an exemplar, a historically singular phenomenon. As it was with the panopticon for Foucault, so is the Homo Sacer or the Muselmann or the state of exception for me. And then I use this paradigm to construct a large group of phenomena and in order to understand an historical structure, again analogous with Foucault, who developed his “panopticism” from the panopticon. But this kind of analysis should not be confused with a sociological investigation.
 Raulff: Nevertheless, people were shocked by your comparison because it seemed to equate American and Nazi policies.
 Agamben: But I spoke rather of the prisoners in Guantánamo, and their situation is legally-speaking actually comparable with those in the Nazi camps. The detainees of Guantanamo do not have the status of Prisoners of War, they have absolutely no legal status. They are subject now only to raw power; they have no legal existence. In the Nazi camps, the Jews had to be first fully “denationalised” and stripped of all the citizenship rights remaining after Nuremberg, after which they were also erased as legal subjects.
 Raulff: What do you understand the connection to be to America’s security policy? Does Guantánamo belong to the transition you have previously described from governance through law to governance through the administration of the absence of order?
 Agamben: This is the problem behind every security policy, ruling through management, through administration. In the 1968 course at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault showed how security becomes in the 18th century a paradigm of government. For Quesnay, Targot and the other physiocratic politicians, security did not mean the prevention of famines and catastrophes, but meant allowing them to happen and then being able to orientate them in a profitable direction. Thus is Foucault able to oppose security, discipline and law as a model of government. Now I think to have to have discovered that both elements – law and the absence of law – and the corresponding forms of governance – governance through law and governance through management – are part of a double-structure or a system. I try to understand how this system operates. You see, there is a French word that Carl Schmitt often quotes and that means: Le Roi reigne mail il ne gouverne pas (the King reigns but he does not govern). That is the termini of the double-structure: to reign and to govern. Benjamin brought the conceptual pairing of schalten and walten (command and administer) to this categorization. In order to understand their historical dissociation one must then first grasp their structural interrelation.
The Entire Interview